The Ginseng Drop Cafe - Medicine
"Five jiggles of the teabag, Nicholas," Miss Priscilla Smyth-Brown called to the saint in the kitchen.Â "Not one jiggle more!" added she who commanded from where she sat in the living room.Â "Then stir it counter-clockwise, three times!"
Saint Nicholas did as his patient directed.Â Not that the blessed one was a nurse or doctor.Â But the landlady had appointed him lodger in-charge of the ginseng tea bags from the health food shop â€“ given that she was feeling poorly of late.
"Remember to add the special medicine!" instructed Priscilla, referring to the gin bottle.
Ginseng without a generous nip of gin was unthinkable; and what was the point of being sick if you couldn't enjoy it?Â The juniper flavour and aroma of the gin transformed the strange tasting ginseng tea from one that was reluctantly raised to one's mouth into a triumphant nectar of the gods to be relished.Â Not, of course, implying that Miss Priscilla was a lush or that the boarding house was a gin-palace!Â However, it easily could have been dubbed The Ginseng Drop CafÃ©.Â Which it wasn't!
"A large nip, if you please!" commanded the landlady.
Saint Nicholas added two nips of gin to the cup of tea.Â It was an act of good Christian duty to pamper the sick.Â Then he added a third, for such was above and beyond the call of duty.Â This was good karma, and demonstrating the saint's ecumenical nature.
Besides, unlike the one-way traffic of the aforesaid Christian duty, karma was a two-way roundabout.Â It implemented a modified golden rule: doing unto others and them doing it unto you.Â Of course, this golden rule would quickly change into one of lead if the doing was wrongly done. Â Perhaps being a case of one-way traffic entering both lanes of a two-way roundabout.Â Or the good saint having to drink Miss Smyth-Brown's ginseng & gin toddy.Â Conversely, a modicum of white rum in a skinny flat white coffee, as automatically added at The Cold Drop CafÃ©, was a classic example of good Christian duty, karma and the golden rule all rolled into one.Â There, everyone took their medicine like a man, including women.Â And many a patron rolled happily out of the cafÃ© doors.
"You should see a doctor," cautioned Saint Nicholas as his landlady sipped the lip-smacking nectar.Â "You're not getting any younger!" he added, illustrating his astute knowledge of women; and perhaps helping to explain why he was still a bachelor.
"Humph!" snorted Miss Priscilla.Â She often admired herself in the mirror, and didn't feel a day over seventy, the age she'd admitted to some twenty years before.Â "I'm just a slip of a girl!"
An unkind soul, like the second last lodger at the boarding house, would have said that when Miss Priscilla was a slip of a girl, dinosaurs still held sway.Â That didn't occur to the saint.Â He might have observed that there was many a slip twixt cup and lip.Â But he didn't think to say so; nor would he have understood it if he had.Â The penultimate lodger would have blurted it out, but he'd been given his marching orders years before.Â Miss Smyth-Brown's close relatives might have voiced it - but they were long dead, and were probably being hunted in hell by the dinosaurs.Â But Saint Nicholas did know that pride comes before a fall.Â And that the slide down a slippery slope could mean crashing heavily down to earth, perhaps sustaining a broken leg.
This is not to imply that Miss P. Smyth-Brown had a broken leg.Â Nor to suggest that she was unreasonably smitten with ginseng and gin on the rocks, and falling about all over the place.Â However, she was more than slightly partial to a generous modicum of ginseng and gin â€“ for purely medicinal purposes.Â But as Saint Nicholas had observed, she wasn't a time lord and getting any younger.Â The getting older was her problem.Â More specifically, declining physical health was the real issue at hand.
After weeks of trying, he accompanied her to an appointment with his own doctor â€“ a highly qualified woman who was also a psychiatrist, psychologist and a recent convert to lesbianism.Â Naturally, her private inclinations did not encompass patients.Â She was the consummate professional, and had prescribed appropriate medication for Miss Smyth-Brown.Â After Miss Priscilla's consultation, he popped into the surgery for a quick catch-up chat.Â The good doctor was horrified to hear that he hadn't taken any medication since before his trip to India, and she deftly wrote him a script for a double strength serving of the dreadful tasting medicine.Â She reminded him in no uncertain words for the need to actually swallow it.
But, of course, declining physical health didn't really apply to him, as Saint Nicholas saw it.Â Even though God had moved in mysterious ways for him to be granted a disability pension, years before.Â Such income was sufficient for his worldly needs and secured him lodgings at Miss Priscilla's boarding house.Â Although he couldn't afford to live anywhere else, his room in the basement suited him.
It was a sort of two-way medicine.Â It benefited Miss Priscilla in her declining years â€“ the saint being a helper and confidante, a carer as well as of late, and a board paying lodger.Â It assisted Saint Nicholas because he lived in the very heart of the city, albeit a somewhat black and fading ticker.Â The nearby official headquarters of the God's Hitmen Motorcycle Club was a place to hang out; being a sort of social club for anyone like him who was blind as to what was really going down.Â It was perhaps a blessing that he just assumed that the Hitmen were batting for God in the game of life.Â Thus the saint could innocently while away the time chatting to Mongrel, the club president, and to That Bitch, his good lady wife.
And because the saint was an associate of the club, Mongrel and other members serviced and maintained his black motorbike free of charge.Â It was an example of karma in action, for Saint Nicholas had once rescued Mongrel's mother from herself.
Another advantage of living at the boarding house on Hell Street was that a plethora of cafÃ©s were within easy riding distance.Â At these coffee emporia Saint Nicholas was good medicine for all whom he encountered.Â However, the karma of it was seldom obvious, which is the way of karma.Â Zen could have explained it in enigmatic ways.Â But Zen did not live at the boarding house.Â Saint Nicholas did and that was all that mattered in terms of the welfare of Miss Smyth-Brown.Â Yet Miss Priscilla was ailing and fading away.Â Zen was needed to explain that.Â But, again, Zen did not live there.
Tales from the Divine Drop Cafes